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Bruce Cassidy Has No Regrets About Starting Tuukka Rask In Playoffs

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Now that Tuukka Rask has revealed that he was playing through a torn labrum in his hip, the obvious question has become whether or not the goaltender should have gotten all 11 playoff starts for the Bruins.

Head coach Bruce Cassidy spoke to the media on Monday morning, and he said he believes he and the team made the right call on the decision to start the veteran netminder throughout the postseason run.

"No regrets on that," Cassidy said. "We feel he gave us the best chance to win. It didn't work out that way."

The situation obviously became magnified when Cassidy pulled Rask after two periods in Game 5, inserting rookie Jeremy Swayman for his first game action in almost a full month. He allowed a goal on three shots, and the Bruins lost 5-4. Cassidy said that Rask simply wasn't sharp in that game, and that his injury was not the deciding factor in him coming out of the game.

"We felt Tuukka's performance -- other than Game 5 -- was very good. And it's perfectly normal for a goalie to have an off night," Cassidy said. "You're more worried was it because of an injury, is it because you were off, is it because of the team in front you, et cetera? So we clarified that the next day, he was ready to go, and fit. So we stuck with him."

Rask played well, despite the injury, through his first nine starts of the postseason. He went 6-3 with a .935 save percentage and a 1.94 GAA. In his final two games, though, he posted an .814 save percentage and 4.83 GAA. While a number of goals were point-blank shots from dangerous areas that came via defensive breakdowns, Rask was certainly not as aggressive out of his crease as he might normally be on some of those attempts.

Cassidy went into detail about how the decision-making process worked with regard to Rask's playing status.

"Obviously Tuukka has acknowledged that he was playing hurt. And he met with us every day -- medical staff, myself, [goaltending coach Bob Essensa] to go through his status, particularly in the playoffs. I mean it started, this was an injury that occurred, you know, he played Game 1 with it against Washington right through Game 6 in New York. So it was the same injury, the same player dealing with it. We just got different results in the second round. Obviously some of that is obviously team-oriented in both the first and second round. You don't put everything on the goalie when you lose just like you don't when you win. So, in that case, we were never going to run out a player that wasn't fit to play.

"And he regularly told us he was ready to go. An incident in Game 5, after the second period I thought he didn't look as sharp.  Goalie Bob talked to him, he said he was lacking some energy, so we said, we'll go with [Jeremy] Swayman in the third, and then we'll sort it out in Game 6. And again he came back the next day, said he was feeling better, he'd go through his routine, his maintenance. He didn't skate a lot between games. He got the morning skate in and felt ready to go. So, then it comes on to me, I have to make the final call on what gives us the best chance to win. And I chose Tuukka."

Cassidy also said he didn't make his decisions on his own, as he checked in with the "leadership group" -- likely captain Patrice Bergeron and alternate captains Brad Marchand and David Krejci, with potentially some input from Charlie McAvoy on the back end -- to see how they felt about the goaltending situation.

"Some of those decisions also go through the leadership group -- 'where are you guys at in terms of your mental psyche with the goaltending?' And all they were all on board with Tuukka as well," Cassidy said. "They certainly believe in Swayman but Tuukka has been there and done it. So that's where that decision came from. And at the end of the day, it didn't work out, so you're always going to sort of analyze some things that happened after the series. But that's when we felt he gave us the best chance to win. That was the decision. He was healthy to play, had played, played well. And that was that."

Rask said last week that he dealt with the injury all year, after he felt something pop when playing against Carolina in the bubble last summer. He ended up missing time in March and April due to a back injury, which Rask said he suffered because he was overcompensating for his labrum injury by overexerting other muscles.

Cassidy was asked on Monday if the team ever considered shutting down Rask and ending his season during that extended absence, so that the goaltender could undergo surgery and prepare for next season.

"I don't believe so. He may have had that with the medical team, but no, there was never that discussion. It was more about, let's get him the rest he needs," Cassidy said. "We were not considering shutting down Tuukka. That would have had to have been his call. I think it goes back to the question a little bit earlier — there's guys, [Brad Marchand], [David Pastrnak] last year, [Nikita] Kucherov for that matter -- that played for the playoffs and all had to have surgeries. That happens. ... Typically, it's the player's decision. They have to be comfortable with their body, we've said that all along. We're not going to put anybody out there that's not fit to play. Obviously, sometimes second opinions come into play with all of that. With Tuukka, it was a matter of, let's get him some rest, get him his point of care treatments, put his schedule together for maintenance for him. Obviously, check with the individual on a daily basis to see how he's progressing. You hope that's enough to keep him ready to play. That was the discussion, and that's how it played out."

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